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Historic building burns at Harvard

Historic building burns at Harvard
The old Harvard Railroad depot circa 1908. Courtesy of the Cedar Springs Historical Society.

The old Harvard Railroad depot circa 1908. Courtesy of the Cedar Springs Historical Society.

By Judy Reed

 

Five fire departments battled a blaze in Oakfield Township Tuesday that consumed one of the oldest buildings in the area.

Firefighters were dispatched to 12600 Harvard Avenue, across from the Harvard Bar, between 15 and 16 Mile Roads, about 5 p.m. Tuesday, February 11, on a report of flames coming out of a window.

A fire in Harvard Tuesday consumed a historic building Wednesday. Post photo by J. Reed.

A fire in Harvard Tuesday consumed a historic building Wednesday. Post photo by J. Reed.

According to Oakfield Fire Chief Don Riker, although the building was recently being used as apartments, it was formerly the old Harvard Fire Department, and began as a railroad depot back in the late 1800s.

The fire could be seen for miles, as flames licked the sky and thick, black smoke coiled upward.

Aiding Oakfield at the scene was the Courtland, Spencer, and Grattan Fire Departments, and Maple Valley Fire Department helped with water supply and canteen.

Riker said they had the fire knocked down in close to four hours, and finally cleared the scene about 10:30 p.m.

Post photo by J. Reed.

Post photo by J. Reed.

β€œIt was freezing cold. Considering that we were battling severe cold elements, I thought it went well,” noted Riker. β€œI would like to thank those surrounding departments for helping a us, small fire department, battle a fire in a commercial-sized building,” he said.

Riker said that the fire began in the mechanical room, where a propane tank was being used to heat the furnace. There was one couple living in front, and another couple and a baby living in the back. All got out safely. There were no pets.

Riker said that while it could be a loss, the standing walls were masonry block, a heavy construction, while the interior walls were wood and are gone.

The Harvard Railroad Depot was a stop on the Toledo, Saginaw and Muskegon Railroad, later known as the Grand Trunk Railway. It ran east and west.

The Harvard Fire Department disbanded in the early to mid 1980s, when Oakfield built a new township hall, and some of the firefighters and equipment went to Spencer, and some went to Oakfield.

 

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